Lately I have seen a large number of divorcing couples who have kept their bank accounts and debts completely separate all throughout their marriage.  Does that mean those accounts are separate property and the debts will go to the person whose name is on the debt?  No.

In general, any property accumulated during the marriage is community property, regardless of whose name is on the account or the title.  Any property owned by either spouse prior to the marriage is the separate property of that spouse.  Therefore, if the couple buys a house together prior to marriage and it is in only one spouse’s name, it is technically the separate property of that spouse.  (There are ways for the other spouse to get access to some money from the house, but that is another topic for another day.) Inheritance is also considered separate property, as are gifts.  If it does not fall into one of those categories of separate property, it is community property.

I do not recommend keeping your financial life separate from your spouse’s financial life, at least without full knowledge of what is going on with your significant other.  You could be help responsible for a portion of your spouse’s debt, even if it was in his or her name alone and even if it was frivolous spending.  Proving that the parties had an agreement to keep everything separate and to each be responsible for his or her own debts (or to each keep his or her own property) is difficult unless such an agreement is in writing.  The spouse in the weaker financial position will undoubtedly be looking to equalize in the event of a divorce.

Divorce

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The vast majority of custody orders, whether they be from a divorce or another custody matter, contain standard holidays as part of the possession and access schedule.  These are the holidays included in the standard possession order found in the Texas Family Code.  This is usually the case regardless of what schedule the parties follow the rest of the year (standard possession, expanded standard possession, 50/50, or some other type of schedule).

With “standard holidays”, one parent typically will have the following:

In even numbered years, from the time school is dismissed before the Thanksgiving holiday until 6:00 p.m. on the Sunday before school resumes.

In odd numbered years, from the time school is dismissed before the Christmas break until 12:00 noon on December 28.

In even numbered years, from 12:00 noon on December 28 until 6:00 p.m. the day before school resumes following the Christmas break.

The other parent would have the opposite for Thanksgiving and the Christmas break.

Spring break differs depending on how close together the parents live.  If the parents are living less than 100 miles apart, they will alternate for spring break.  If one parent lives more than 100 miles away from the primary residence of the child, that parent will get every spring break.

turkey

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In Texas, a common law marriage (also known as an informal marriage) is a situation where a man and a woman have agreed to be married, have lived together as husband and wife , and have held themselves out to others as being married without obtaining a marriage license or participating in a formal marriage ceremony.

If there is any possibility that you have been in a common law marriage, it is best to obtain a formal divorce when that relationship ends.  If you filed tax returns together as a married couple, you will need a divorce in order to file as single going forward.  If you had children together, you will need some type of court order to address custody and child support issues.  If there is any doubt about whether or not a common law marriage existed, it is a good idea to include those child custody issues in a divorce.

Why is a divorce a good idea if this type of relationship ends?  Here is a good example:  Joe and Sally have lived together for several years and had children together.  They break up.  Joe and Sally have no property, so they do not bother with a divorce.  Later, Sally obtains a great job, accumulates a 401(k) and buys a house.  If the parties never divorced, Joe could file for divorce years down the road and claim a community property interest in all of Sally’s accumulated wealth.   Additionally, it could pose problems if Sally or Joe decided to enter a formal marriage with someone else.

Divorce

 

 

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The Draper Law Firm has been serving families in the North Texas area since 2008.  We have been at our current location in Plano for several years, and we will continue meeting clients in Plano.  Effective September 1, our firm now has a new location in Frisco!  We are conveniently located in Frisco Square at 6136 Frisco Square Blvd. #400, Frisco, Texas 75034.

The addition of a Frisco office will allow our practice to better serve clients in northern and western Collin County, and it will open up better opportunities to serve clients in Denton County.  Hours at both our Plano and Frisco locations are by appointment only.

The Draper Law Firm

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Unfortunately, I hear from parents on a regular basis who are being denied or partially denied possession and access of their child by the other parent.  Sometimes a simple letter from an attorney will be enough to make the other parent comply with the terms of the order.  Sometimes you will need to file an enforcement action against the parent to have him or her held in contempt.  When preparing for an enforcement action, there are a few steps I recommend parents take:

1.  Always arrive at the designated location at the time designated in the order.  If the order says you are entitled to possession at 6 pm on Friday but you tried to pick the child up at 7 pm, you are out of luck.  Similarly, you cannot enforce informal agreements made with the other party for switching days / times.  You can only file an enforcement action for those days / times specifically laid out in the order.

2.  Keep accurate records of when you were denied access.  I recommend keeping a journal or using a calendar to track visits.  When you file an enforcement petition, you will need to specify exact dates, times and locations for any violations.  If you kept records, this will be much easier to do.

3.  If the other parent is refusing to give you your child at the designated time and place, consider calling the local police (assuming you have a copy of your order with you).  The police may or may not help you actually obtain possession of the child at that time, but it will create a record that will be useful in court.

4.  Buy a soda from a gas station or fast food restaurant near the exchange point.  You can use the receipt to show you were in that vicinity on the date / time in question.

The requirements for an enforcement action are very specific.  Therefore, you will fare much better if you have an attorney on your side.  I have seen judges throw out enforcement actions filed by pro se parties without even hearing one word of evidence.  If the motion does not meet the specific requirements of the Texas Family Code, you will lose.

Child Custody

 

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